Tag Archives: Michael Lark

Today’s Super Comic — Daredevil #82 (2006)

Then there was that time Daredevil went to jail…and it was kind of justified, actually.

Ed Brubaker took over as Daredevil’s writer beginning with #82, and he picked up right where predecessor Brian Michael Bendis left off. Bendis shook things up quite a bit over the previous few years by giving Daredevil a secret-identity crisis. Matt Murdock was outed as the Man Without Fear, but in the absence of definitive proof, he was able to get away with the reliable tactic of deny, deny, deny…until he couldn’t.

So Murdock’s behind bars in the same facility as the Kingpin and many others he’s put away throughout his career. Issue #82 begins with him in protective custody, as he is legally a blind man, but you get the feeling that’s not going to last long. Meanwhile, Daredevil is running around Hell’s Kitchen beating up bad guys. Wait, what?

It’s a gripping scenario, one that does something different with a character who had been around for over forty years at this point. As you’d expect from Brubaker, the writing is tense, intelligent, grounded, and better suited for older readers, and Michael Lark’s art is a natural fit, the gritty style setting exactly the right tone.

Daredevil as a prison show…and it works wonderfully.

Really, though—lawyer by day, vigilante by night? As much as I love the character, Murdock has broken the law numerous times over the years, so it’s fitting that his hubris earns him some comeuppance. It may have taken four decades to get here, but this was a Daredevil story that needed to happen. The events feel earned.

Writer: Ed Brubaker

Artist: Michael Lark

Cover: Tommy Lee Edwards

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Daredevil by Ed Brubaker & Michael Lark Ultimate Collection – Book 1 (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 15 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Captain America #12 (2005)

captain_america_vol_5_12Retconning is tricky business. The writers are basically meddling with fictional history—changing backstories to suit current stories. When dealing with the Marvel Universe’s elastic timeline, tweaks are often necessary to keep things modern. But when the adjustments are more ambitious, books can easily go off the rails…or, when done properly, they can further enrich characters and stories.

Fortunately, Ed Brubaker’s major retconning of the Captain America and Bucky Barnes partnership falls in the latter category. Marvel doesn’t really do teen sidekicks, but it hadn’t figured that out yet in the 1940s (it also hadn’t even figured out it was “Marvel,” yet—it was Timely Comics back then).

The established story for many years was that teenage Bucky was an Army orphan who stumbled upon Cap’s secret identity, and he convinced Cap to take him on as a partner. And then he died at the same time Cap began his decades-long hibernation on ice. So…Cap fought with the aid of an experimental Super-Soldier serum coursing through his veins, while Bucky fought with the aid of plucky youthful exuberance and somehow managed to keep up. Other than the part where Bucky dies, it never made any sense, even by comic book standards.

In the “Winter Soldier” arc, Brubaker rewrites and fleshes out that backstory. Issue #12, we see Cap in 1941 learning about Bucky for the first time, as his superior officer explains the rationale for Captain America having a young sidekick. Part of it is propaganda, making sure the symbol of Captain America appeals to the youth. But there’s also a more pragmatic side—Bucky’s a gifted natural fighter who has received advanced training, and he can perform some of those wartime dirty deeds that need doing, thereby allowing Cap to keep his red-white-and-blue hands clean.

Brubaker didn’t merely retcon Bucky’s backstory—he gave a previously underdeveloped character an identity worth having. The friendship between Cap and Bucky was genuine, and that’s key, but otherwise the Bucky we had known was just the propaganda front. Turns out he was really Captain America’s secret weapon.

And now that secret weapon is aimed at Cap himself. It’s a rich conflict indeed.

Writer: Ed Brubaker

Artists: Steve Epting and Michael Lark

Cover: Steve Epting

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Captain America: Winter Soldier (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 14 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Captain America #2 (2004)

captain_america_vol_5_2I reviewed the first issue of this series over the summer and was reminded just how fantastic Ed Brubaker’s run on Captain America was. So it’s past time I resumed re-reading, and issue #2 validates that decision.

Brubaker’s portrayal of Cap is spot-on, and the excellent artwork of Steve Epting and Michael Lark bolsters the writing’s effectiveness. Captain America has gravitas here (which will make key events later in the run all the more meaningful), and he never seems like anything less than a hero.

Cap and SHIELD investigate the assassination of an old enemy, one who has tried to kill them all a ridiculous number of times over the decades. No great loss for the world, but the death brings Cap no joy. Though not exactly torn up, he feels the loss of someone who had played a major role in his life. And yeah, he’s appropriately skeptical, given death’s unreliability in the Marvel Universe. It all combines into a reaction that’s perfectly in character, and perfectly human, while further enhancing that gravitas.

I’ll have to follow through with this series, too. (What’s one more to juggle?)

Writer: Ed Brubaker

Artists: Steve Epting and Michael Lark

Cover: Steve Epting

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Captain America: Winter Soldier (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 14 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Gotham Central #6 (2003)

gotham_central_vol_1_6I’m not a fan of police procedurals. But a police procedural set in Batman’s world? That breaks up the formula nicely.

Gotham Central focuses on the Gotham City Police Department’s Major Crimes Unit, during a time when Commissioner Gordon had retired. This GCPD isn’t necessarily Batman’s friend. Nevertheless, these ordinary but highly competent officers share his mission of stopping crime, especially the most colorful, eccentric crime that frequently plagues Gotham.

Writers Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka juggle a sizable cast over the 40-issue run of this consistently excellent series, and several come into sharp focus, particularly Detective Renee Montoya, the protagonist of the second storyline, “Half a Life.”

Rucka takes the writing helm for this arc, which begins in #6, and he clearly sets up Montoya’s status quo in this first part—her relationship with her parents, her typical interactions with her co-workers, her skill at her job, and her impending legal troubles. Then he blows it up on the last page, when a very private part of her life is unexpectedly made public. And this sets into motion what may well be the strongest storyline of the series…which is saying a lot.

Michael Lark brings exactly the right artistic style to the book. It’s down to earth, and not one character possesses a cartoonish physique. People look like people, and each face is distinct.

Gotham Central is a comic for adults…even those of us who lack any interest in cop shows.

Writer: Greg Rucka

Artist: Michael Lark

Publisher: DC Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Comixology; included in Gotham Central vol. 2: Half a Life (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 15 and up